Aaron Craft will go down as one of the most celebrated players in Ohio State basketball history, and for good reason. Craft is the Big Ten's all time leader in steals over a career, and fifth all time in assists. He was a two time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and was roundly praised for his leadership, toughness, and high basketball IQ. Craft was everything you could want in a college basketball point guard. Well, almost everything. Craft can't really shoot.
Is his man to man defensive ability and sheer #moxie enough for him to land on an NBA roster? Let's take a closer look.
Excellent on ball defender: Craft is the kind of player that must be infuriating to go against. Craft is strong, has decent size, and good lateral quickness for his position, allowing him to constantly stay in front of his man. His active hands and ability to anticipate passes make him excellent at picking up steals without gambling too much, and his relentless ability to just constantly make ball-handlers uncomfortable leads to turnovers that aren't directly credited to him. Craft has been consistently mentioned as one of the best defenders in college basketball, and there isn't a reason to suggest that couldn't carry to the next level. He did, after all, hold is own against Kyrie Irving.
Awareness: Craft has strong awareness on the court, keeps his turnovers down, and is sure to move the basketball around the offense, but he also has a good awareness of exactly the kind of basketball player that he is. Craft isn't going to try and force the issue offensively, and in a situation where he isn't expected to be a primary scorer (i.e, a situation that isn't last year's Ohio State team), he will be able to play within himself even more. Craft knows exactly what his strengths and weakness are, and is mature enough to not try and be something he isn't.
Intangibles: I know it's a trope that has been beaten into the ground at this point, but it is hard not to mention it when you're talking about Craft. He's exceptionally smart (the talk that surrounds him about medical school isn't a joke), a good leader, and tough as nails. He's a player that will fly all over the practice court, take charges, box out, and basically do every little gritty thing that makes coaches swoon, and makes opposing fans foam with range (while secretly wishing he played for their team). If high character is important to an NBA GM, Aaron Craft has it in spades.
Shooting: Aaron Craft is a lousy shooter, even when his team badly needed him to shoot. Per DraftExpress, Craft only averaged 1.8 three point attempts per 40 minutes, one of the lowest ratios of any point guard in the draft that has NBA aspirations. He wasn't particularly efficient at making those, hitting only 30%. Even with defenses daring him to shoot jumpers, Craft struggled throughout his college career, and was loath to take them. With NBA coaching, it is possible that Craft's jumper could improve, but the fact that it never really blossomed at Ohio State doesn't make that particularly likely.
Poor measurables: Craft isn't short, and he is strong, but he isn't exactly the physical prototype of an NBA point guard. He doesn't have a great wingspan (6'1.5"), and while his lateral quickness is strong, his footspeed and explosiveness is not NBA caliber. Craft won't be able to make up for his poor jump shot by beating NBA players off the dribble and getting to the basket, and his previous approach of putting his head down and just barreling to the hoop won't work. Without a jump shot, and without physical prowess, Craft won't have the space to be much of a distributor, and would be a significant liability on the court.
NBA player comparison: A worse shooting Eric Snow. Lots of Buckeye fans have pointed out that there are guards in the NBA who are excellent defenders but poor scorers, like Bruce Bowen, Tony Allen, and even Jason Kidd early in his career. The difference between Craft and those guys is that the others were all able to score in college. Craft's hitch-fill jump shot and meh athleticism really puts him behind the eight-ball, even though he should certainly be able defend at his position well in the NBA. Snow is the most similar NBA profile I could find, and hey, Snow had a long, productive NBA career. He seems to represent the best case scenario for Craft.
Personally, I'd be a little surprised if Craft was drafted, given that other players in this draft have a higher upside, and his decencies on the offensive side of the ball are both significant and glaring. However, what Craft can bring to the table, not just in terms of defensive ability, but yes, leadership and character, are not for nothing, and people have underestimated him before. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Craft was added to a summer league team, then scrapped his way to a roster invite, and stuck around for a while.
If not, hey, at least Craft got some new duds out of the experience.